The past, present and the uncertain future of Environmental Sustainability

The past, present and the uncertain future of Environmental Sustainability
The Siliconreview
22 January, 2020

A few decades ago Environmental sustainability was largely limited to growing plants, opting for renewable energy resources and riding a bicycle instead of a car. But today, Environmental sustainability isn’t just limited to these topics on an individual scale. A whole plethora of activities can be done in order to make sure we live in a sustainable environment – switching devices off instead of using standby, walking short distances instead of riding on a bike, using public transport, carpooling, choosing recyclable materials, renting things instead of buying, carrying your own shopping bags, etc.. Everything adds. Drop by drop, we make an ocean.

The practices that were considered sustainable in the past turn out to be nothing close to it in reality. For example, solar energy was considered to be an environmentally sustainable solution to meet our energy needs. It reached such heights of sustainability that the sun became synonymous with sustainability. A Solar PV (photo-voltaic) cell involves two important stages. An amount of 1756 thousand tonnes of CO2 is released during the first stage and a similar amount is released during the conversion of EGS to ingots. Now, imagine how many tonnes of quartz have to be mined to support the billions of people living today and how many tonnes of CO2 will be released during the production of a solar panel.Recent findings prove that Geothermal energy is a better alternative to Solar energy.1MW geothermal power plant generates nearly 8.2 million units (MU) per MW per annum as compared to 1.6 MU for solar, 3.9 for wind and 3.9 for hydro energy. Yesterday’s sustainable turns into today’s unsustainable. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised if today’s sustainable becomes tomorrow’s unsustainable. There are concerns with geothermal energy as it needs to be addressed – release of hydrogen sulfide gas and the huge capital required.

 With time, our criteria’s for a sustainable environment might change. We will start considering other questions and not just the CO2 released or the recyclability of materials. For example, we might start considering how it affects other living creatures which are important to the environment.

“We haven’t inherited the planet from our forefathers, we have borrowed it from our children”the quote says it all. We need to take care of the planet and give our children a better one than what we were given. We need to look beyond what is popularly accepted and raise questions from a different point of view. What is invisible needs to become visible. What is unknown needs to be known. Let’s put the spotlight on the stuff that has been lying behind the curtains. A lot has been said, heard, read and written about environmental sustainability. A lot more needs to be done rightly, right now.